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Describing inconsistent text

From: Learning GREP with InDesign

Video: Describing inconsistent text

When text is 100% consistent, it's very easy to describe. Inconsistent text is a bit more challenging, but can also be described with GREP. In a previous movie, we set up a GREP style that automatically formatted figure references in a document, and it successfully formatted only the figure references that appear in parentheses, not the ones that didn't, but excluded the parentheses from the formatting, using Positive Lookbehind and Positive Lookahead. This is that document with that style applied. I am on page 4, and as I scroll down, I can see my styled Figure 11 reference, and down here later on the page, I see Figure 14 and Figure 15.

Describing inconsistent text

When text is 100% consistent, it's very easy to describe. Inconsistent text is a bit more challenging, but can also be described with GREP. In a previous movie, we set up a GREP style that automatically formatted figure references in a document, and it successfully formatted only the figure references that appear in parentheses, not the ones that didn't, but excluded the parentheses from the formatting, using Positive Lookbehind and Positive Lookahead. This is that document with that style applied. I am on page 4, and as I scroll down, I can see my styled Figure 11 reference, and down here later on the page, I see Figure 14 and Figure 15.

So something is missing. Something didn't get styled. I will scroll back up, and you can see here, Figures 12 and 15. They are not referred to in a consistent manner, as the other figures. Let's take a look at the Paragraph style itself, and the GREP style built into it to see what we've got so far. I'll choose Edit>Auto Figure References, and go to the GREP Style area for that style. And here's the expression we set up in the previous movie. Positive Lookbehind and Lookahead are at the beginning and end of the expression, and we refer to all of the figure references as Figure, space, any digit one or more times.

Well, this Figures 12 and 15 out here does not meet that criteria. It doesn't match, so it isn't styled. So I need to modify this GREP expression. So that I'll not only continue to style the figure references that I've already styled, but to account for this slightly different phrasing of figure references here, where I refer to more than one figure. The first thing I need to do is account for the presence of the plural version of 'figures'. That's easy enough to do by just putting an S at the end of the word Figure, then going to the Special Characters menu, and choosing the Repeat Metacharacter Zero or One Time.

This means the S may be there. It may not be there. Both are a match. And if I click off here, let's scroll back down to that. That has not yet fixed this, because it's only fixed one part, Figure and Figures, but what follows that is still not described in a way that handles both. So the thing you need to do when you're working out of GREP expression is to step back, and look at what it is you are trying to describe, not get too hung up on the specifics of the words themselves, and think about the pattern you're trying to describe.

So, in this instance, I'm trying to account for the word 'Figure' or 'Figures', which I've already done, followed by a space, followed by any digit one or more times. That gets me all the way through Figures, space 12, in this particular figure reference. I have to account for the possibility that another space, another word, another space, and another one or more digits could follow that before the closing parenthesis is encountered.

There are a couple of ways that I can do this. Some of them are very rigid and specific. Some of them are far more flexible. Let's start with what might be the natural inclination. After the any digit One or More Times Metacharacter, I could type in a space, the word 'and', another space, and another any digit one or more times metacharacter combination. If I enclose that in parentheses, making it a sub-expression, and then follow it with a question mark, meaning zero or more times, I've now made the presence of the word 'and', the spaces around it, and the additional number optional.

So I am going to click off here, and I'll see what that does. That solved the problem, but it solved the problem in a very, very specific way. So I am going to click OK here, and commit to this style. Let me make a change. Instead of 'and', at some point this document is edited, and it becomes an ampersand and my automatic styling breaks. My other styles still work. Figure 11, Figures 14 and 15, no problems there.

But I've been a little too rigid and not accounted for the fact that things change and maybe I should write an expression that's a little bit more flexible, and adaptable. So I am going to go back in and modify this style again. And in this GREP Style, I don't want to think specifically about the word 'And' and I want to cover my bases as much as possible. Suppose this was phrased as Figures 12 through 15, which it technically should be because figures 12 and 15 are nonconsecutive.

But if it was going to be Figures 12 through 15, or 12 em dash 15, however it's going to be phrased, I want to account for any possibility of that. So the 'And' is a little bit too specific for me. So I can get rid of that, and instead, I'm going to replace that with something more broad, and less specific. From the Special Characters menu, I'm going to choose the Wildcard, Any Character, and after that, the Repeat Metacharacter, One or More Times(Shortest Match), because technically, the numbers in the second figure reference also fall under the criteria of any character.

If I just use One or More Times, it's not going to differentiate, and it's going to go straight through to that closing parenthesis. So this makes things more specific and reins in that any character metacharacter. So I'll choose that, and it puts in a Plus sign and Question Mark, which is One or More Times(Shortest Match). I'll click off here, and there we have a successful match. Let's test out just how successful it is. Click OK. I'll select this ampersand, and instead, I'll type the word 'through', Figures 12 through 15. That also works.

If I get rid of the spaces around it altogether, and type in an em dash, Figures 12-15 also work. So, this works for many, many phrasings of a figure reference, and I have got a very flexible style that I can use that's going to account for all of them. So I've covered all the bases. All the figure references within parentheses are styled, but the parentheses around them are not, and in those instances, where the wording of those references varies from most of the others, we've allowed for that using the Zero or One Times Metacharacter, and making certain parts of the expression optional.

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This video is part of

Image for Learning GREP with InDesign
Learning GREP with InDesign

42 video lessons · 12981 viewers

Michael Murphy
Author

 
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  1. 1m 33s
    1. Welcome
      1m 4s
    2. Using the exercise files
      29s
  2. 7m 56s
    1. What is GREP?
      1m 53s
    2. Text searching vs. GREP searching
      2m 35s
    3. Working with GREP and InDesign
      3m 28s
  3. 46m 4s
    1. Using metacharacters, the building blocks of GREP
      6m 37s
    2. Escaping out metacharacters
      2m 49s
    3. Building with wild cards
      9m 9s
    4. Understanding undocumented wild card "opposites"
      3m 11s
    5. Specifying locations
      7m 4s
    6. Learning the undocumented location metacharacters
      4m 45s
    7. Using repeat metacharacters and defining the shortest match
      5m 45s
    8. Specifying exact matches and ranges
      2m 52s
    9. Finding content that doesn't exist with zero functions
      3m 52s
  4. 43m 26s
    1. Creating "or" conditions
      5m 24s
    2. Building subexpressions
      5m 52s
    3. Using character sets to create custom wild cards
      7m 3s
    4. Using negative character sets
      3m 2s
    5. Finding around text with lookbehind and lookahead
      8m 1s
    6. Building with modifiers: Case sensitivity
      4m 0s
    7. Building with modifiers: Single-line and multi-line
      3m 10s
    8. Using InDesign-compatible Posix expressions
      6m 54s
  5. 49m 18s
    1. GREP styles vs. nested styles
      6m 10s
    2. Styling specific words or phrases
      3m 18s
    3. Describing inconsistent text
      6m 59s
    4. Describing and styling prices
      6m 55s
    5. Applying multiple character styles to the same text
      6m 8s
    6. Describing and styling email addresses
      10m 48s
    7. Dynamically fixing orphaned words with GREP
      9m 0s
  6. 33m 30s
    1. Adding more to the mix: GREP Find/Change
      1m 41s
    2. Understanding queries
      8m 20s
    3. Using formatting and styles as Find/Change criteria
      5m 20s
    4. Preserving and recalling using subexpressions
      7m 49s
    5. Backreferences in search queries
      3m 8s
    6. Cleaning up text with GREP
      2m 45s
    7. Creating a GREP-based text cleanup script
      4m 27s
  7. 43m 45s
    1. Describing imported spreadsheet data
      6m 56s
    2. Rearranging imported spreadsheet data
      7m 17s
    3. Applying styles and formatting with GREP
      11m 14s
    4. Describing and standardizing phone numbers
      9m 20s
    5. Inserting anchored objects with GREP
      8m 58s
  8. 27s
    1. Goodbye
      27s

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